Last reviewed 16 November 2021

Northern Ireland (NI) Health Minister Robin Swann has announced that a public consultation will be launched on making the Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for “new recruits” to the health and social care workforce in NI.

It comes as the Government in England announced that Covid-19 vaccination will be a condition of deployment for all public-facing staff in England’s health services from April 2022.

The British Medical Association’s (BMA) official response to the delay in making the Covid-19 vaccine mandatory for NHS staff in England was “sensible” ahead of upcoming winter pressures.

Northern Ireland’s Robin Swann said introducing such a measure would be a significant development that should only be undertaken after careful consideration and that there was “no predetermined outcome”.

But he added: “I remain convinced that persuasion is the best and most effective option when it comes to vaccination. There are compelling arguments that mandatory vaccination for existing health and social care staff in Northern Ireland could be counter-productive, potentially destabilising an already fragile workforce.”

He also added that he also had “great sympathy” for those who wanted their loved ones to be cared for by fully vaccinated staff. He said: “All options remain under consideration. I will closely monitor the situation in England, including the impact of mandatory vaccination on staffing in its social care sector.”

The Scottish and Welsh governments have said they currently have no plans to introduce mandatory Covid-19 and flu vaccinations for NHS and social care staff.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said uptake rates were high amongst NHS and social care staff in Scotland. A Welsh Government spokesperson said it did not see the need for compulsory measures amid “high” take-up of the Covid-19 vaccine among health and social care staff in the country, at 95% of health care workers.

The announcement for NI is available here.